The choices, realistically, were current City Controller Alan Butkovitz and challenger Brett Mandel. They had significant differences of opinion about many things, but they both drew especially stark lines in the sand regarding the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), the city’s property reassessment program meant to correct years of preposterously incorrect property values.
Butkovitz was extremely critical of the plan, and recently paid an outside consultant almost $30,000 to assess the assessments. That consultant found that the process was carried out with good intentions but ultimately ineffective. Butkovitz made great hay out of this result prior to the election, which made some in the media suspicious of his motivations. After all, that almost $30,000 was paid for by the taxpayers.
Challenger Brett Mandel, who positions himself as a reformer, has long endorsed the overarching concept of property reassessment, if not the current implementation. As early as 2003, he was a member of tax reform commission that addressed the very problem of property value discrepancies. He has had a sincere interest in the issue. In October, as the pre-election talk heated up a bit, Mandel’s talk about AVI turned more obviously political. From his website:
After years of debate, there should be no question that, right now, real estate taxation in Philadelphia is unfair and haphazard…We have to establish legitimate and correct values for all properties. Anyone who says that we should not assess properties accurately is just plain wrong (or plotting a campaign for mayor–or both).
Mandel knew well that Butkovitz was potentially planning a run for mayor, so the dig was pretty clear–and didn’t have much to do with policy after all. As the race progressed, tactics got dirtier on both sides with more ugly allegations until it felt a little disgusting to place a finger on either name in the voting booth.
It’ll be interesting to see how Butkovitz contends with AVI now that he doesn’t have to counter Mandel’s point of view. Perhaps he can behave like an adult and help illuminate issues rather than get into schoolyard scraps. Given this site’s endorsement of AVI (despite the OPA’s ridiculous lack of transparency and inability to communicate effectively), we hope Butkovitz finds a way to act with integrity rather than political motivation. He has, in the past, exerted influence on important issues, sometimes for the better. Perhaps he can do that again.
• Butkovitz wins Phila. Democrats’ controller race [philly.com]